Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Keeping score

     The fact that life is not fair is pretty apparent to anybody who played dodge ball in grade school or noticed that the prom queen was not only gorgeous but could execute a perfect back flip. 
    So life is not fair. That is not to say that we shouldn't strive for fairness in our dealings with mankind. I don't think the inherent unfairness of man's experience on planet Earth is a green light to tread ruthlessly upon our fellow travelers. 
    Fairness is one thing. Score keeping, well that's a whole different animal. To make sure the small kid at your son's birthday party gets a share of the pinata candy is one thing. What I'm talking about is score keeping.
     We all do this. I do this. Some of it is social etiquette (you reciprocate a dinner invitation, for example)  some of it is decency (writing a thank you note for a gift or nice gesture), but it can get out of hand when used to keep a running tally of what is owed to whom when it comes to people you care about it. Whether it's keeping score of favors or phone calls or insults, this is treading in dangerous waters.
    I'll bet the vast majority of family feuds and broken friendships can be boiled down to this one insidious character defect. Yes, it is defect as is anything you believe, hold onto or do,  that doesn't make you feel peaceful. And score keeping is sure to mess with your serenity. ..."I'm not watching her kid again, she never watches mine"..."why doesn't he host the holidays once in awhile"..."why do I always have to travel to her house"....We can rationalize away a lot of bad behaviors on our part or keep a lot of good stuff from entering our lives, just but letting that score keeping tape run in our heads.
    Now I'm not saying you have to force relationships that aren't enjoyable to you any longer or be a doormat and say yes to every unpleasant task asked of you.  But what about the hurtful word tossed your way you feel must be answered in like fashion? Or the invitation turned down because you've been feeling neglected?
    The thing about score keeping is it takes a lot of energy to keep track of that score. And your score may be different than others which results in fights over who, indeed, is the truly injured party. Sometimes if your perception is that the score is wildly out of your favor, there is nothing another can do to even it up for you. A lot of fun and love is sacrificed for nurturing resentments and blame.
    How different our lives would be if we  approached each moment with people with fresh eyes.
    What if we just let the scoreboard go black and just played the game with joy,  peace  and love as our only motivations?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Worry Causes Illness

This worries me.
     I am a slow learner, I guess. After a  misspent youth full of cigarettes, late nights and fuzzy mornings,  I started to take my health seriously and at the ripe age of 46 I am in better health than ever, (though not better shape).  While far from   fanatic, I exercise, eat my veggies, take my vitamins, get enough sleep and take it easy on the fast food and wine (most of the time).
    My downfall is stress. I even stress about what stress can do to my health.
    I truly hate being sick. I am  borderline obsessive about getting a flu shot at the first possible opportunity, I pop echinacea and garlic and herbs and vitamin C at the first sign of a cold and keep to  a vigilant vitamin regimen to prevent everything from PMS to anemia. But until recently, while I don't take my health for granted, I didn't worry too much about getting really sick.
    That's changed.  I lie in bed worrying about getting sick. I worry about what would happen if I would get really sick. What if I died? I picture what my son's life would be like. Control freak I am, it drives me crazy to think that not only would I not be able to watch him grow,  but I wouldn't be the one in charge of running interference with teacher, making him wear a sweater and eat his vegetables.
     I know he would end up living with his dad and that scares me. His father loves him to distraction, but here's a question for the ages: Is love truly enough?  On good days his father struggles with the demands of adulthood. He may (sometimes) get our son to brush his teeth and do his homework, but he is more of a playmate. On bad days, he can't take care of himself let alone a child.
    Now I know worry is a useless exercise. And  I understand enough about cognitive therapy to know that dark thoughts feed on themselves and have to be fought and replaced with positive, more realistic ones. Like,  I am healthy right now. I could remind myself that I recently had a check up and my numbers and tests came out A-Ok. I could also point out to myself  that statistically  it is less likely that I will pre-decease my chain smoking, perpetually malnourished ex-husband on his alcoholic merry-go-round of recovery and relapse.
    Still worry sits on my shoulder and whispers thoughts that convince me every freckle is a melanoma and every heart ache the beginning of angina.  Vigilance is required to not allow that train of thought to run away with my serenity.
   We all have to be reminded to be gentle on ourselves. I realize that a lot of this worry comes with being responsible for someone else.   Because when it comes down to it, I'm the Mother. The buck stops here. I'm "it".  Is that an awesome, mind-blowing, overwhelming realization? Yes. Yes it is. 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This is my journey

This blog is a tool to help navigate my journey through the  challenges of divorce, co-dependency, single motherhood and near-poverty during the '10s.

    The past few years have marked the age of crises, both epic and personal in scope. It seems everywhere you turn there it is that word, "crisis."  We are in a worldwide economic crisis, the environment is in crisis, there are political crises galore. I am in  crisis.
    "Eat snakes"  is a term I stumbled upon serendipitously one day researching something else.
     It comes from an obscure play by post-Shakespearean playwright John Fletcher. It means renewal. It is thought that the phrase was derived  from a snake shedding its skin. There is also speculation that some thought eating such a creature would result in new-found youth. Whatever. Leave it to me to name a blog about renewal and change based on an obsolete idiom.
     I like the phrase because it's a directive and most of my life doesn't have such clear instructions. Not that I will eat snakes, I mean, there is a limit.
    So let me introduce myself and why I'm writing this blog. I am a women in mid-life dealing with the upheaval of divorce, recovering from codependency to an alcoholic and trying to raise my son in a decent and loving home.
    I have significant  challenges.  I was with the same man for 25 years which means pretty much my entire adult life. We were married for 12 years.  This relationship was a very good one in all areas for a very long time. Then it wasn't. In any area.
    My ex is an alcoholic. He doesn't fit the typical profile of a drunk. He didn't come from alcoholic parents. He drank quite moderately or not at all for most of his life. He didn't have a life-long struggle with the stuff: His new addiction was the cornerstone of a raging, epic mid-life crisis.  I am recently divorced.
    I am raising an elementary school-age son who is intelligent, friendly, sunny  and quick-tempered.  I am the sole financial support for my son. I am a journalist underpaid to the point of near-poverty.  I live in metro Detroit where the recession is on steroids. I owe exactly twice as much on my mortgage as the market price for my home. My car is 10 years old. You get the picture.
    I have blessings. My son's smile melts my heart and his intelligence fills it with pride.  My ex adores our son and spends as much time as he can with him.  Ninety-nine times out of 100 he gets it together for our son. When he's not well, (i.e. high) he's not abusive. He lives with his folks  whom I trust and adore, and provide a safety net when he's not well.   I have managed to keep my home in a neighborhood where foreclosures are the norm. I have a job I enjoy despite the pay, and am able to pay my bills. I am healthy as is my son. I have family and friends. 
    This is my journey. As my friend Stacy says, I'm putting new groves into my brain. Making those grooves hurt, but are necessary for my survival in the new world I have found myself in. I hope along the way, you visit and maybe we can learn something together.